4/5/06

Castle of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1979)

Looked at Castle of Cagliostro again just tonight (it was a Christmas gift for the kids) and was struck at how many similiarities it had to Grimault's The King and the Bird--not just the castle, but the dungeon, the high-speed elevator, the airy towers, and even Cagliostro himself bears some resemblance to Grimault's designs.

The action scenes are terrific. There's an unfounded story that Spielberg admires the opening chase and if he didn't, he should; it's perfectly paced, inventive, with plenty of surprises and intricately choreographed bits of business.

And I might add, the water in this film is so beautifully clear and pure, it's almost a magical effect by itself. When Lupin swims in it he looks like he's floating; when water pours in a waterfall it shimmers like a glass column; when a face peers through a fountain it's like looking through a lens.

The image of such purity is ironic, what with the base and decadent corruption at the heart of the film, at the heart of Count Cagliostro--don't know if Miyazaki intended this, though.

Clarisse, on the other hand, matches that purity, down to her clear blue eyes and simple, straightforward manner. She's no run-of-the-mill damsel in distress; when Lupin's knocked unconscious, she tends to him with water gathered in a glove (she can be resourceful, in effect); when he's seriously hurt, she risks her life to save him. She earns Goemon and Jigen's respect and admiration in about ten seconds flat (literally), and she may have been Lupin's greatest peril, the one time when he comes closest to being captured (you can see that in the expression he desperately tries to hide from Clarisse).

One last thing--this 100 minute film was done in an unheard-of four months, and as a result, Miyazaki (according to IMDb, anyway) had to abandon his original ending for what he considers a less satisfactory one. Boggles the mind to think of what that ending might have been.

5 comments:

robomastr said...

In terms of visuals for Cagliostro, I wasn't just impressed by the look of the water, but by the way the film's backgrounds seemed so much more like watercolors than any other anime I had seen to date; perhaps even more so than Miyazaki's subsequent work. (This is especially apparent in the scenes where he's walking around the castle, thinking, "She's grown up." Just look at the play of light and shadows on the stonework! With no people in it, those are landscapes I'd like to hang on my wall.) To me, it enhanced the fairy-tale nature of the story, the way it seemed that Lupin wasn't just walking around in an animated environment but rather was walking around inside of paintings that you would expect to find hanging in a museum.

noelbotevera said...

The water's something obvious, a blind man would notice (it even sounds pure and clear); the backgrounds I think are far less so, as backgrounds in anime are usually very well done--sharp of you to notice.

noelbotevera said...

Water being traditionally the most difficult of all objects to animate (nowadays they have computer programs--but it isn't the same, I think), that's extraordinary work in there, come to think of it.

robomastr said...

Another thing that strikes me about this movie is how very <i>different</i> it is from other Lupin stuff before and since. You can watch any of the other Lupin III TV series, OAVs, and so forth; some of them are quite good--but none of them has the same resonance as Cagliostro, and not just in terms of "they were directed by some other guy." It's like you're watching a show about different people altogether. Miyazaki softened the characters a great deal (reportedly Monkey Punch disapproved of the changes, feeling that Miyazaki made Lupin too nice); ironically, by so doing, he probably brought Lupin III the closest to his ancestor--Maurice Leblanc's Arsene Lupin--that he has ever been. (Did you ever listen to <a href="http://www.terrania.us/journal/2004/08/lupin-iii-castle-of-cagliostro.html">my commentary MP3</a>? Probably wouldn't tell you much you didn't already know, but I'm proud of it.)

It's also interesting, too, to see the Cagliostro references that pop up in more recent Lupin anime. <i>Operation Return the Treasure</i> featured a hidden treasure very much like the one in Cagliostro (right down to Lupin saying it wouldn't fit in his pocket); <i>Stolen Lupin</i>, borrowed scenes and ideas willy-nilly, including a castle in the middle of a lake and the whole Lupin says goodbye to young girl/he stole your heart/"To the ends of the earth!" scene.

noelbotevera said...

Ach, other Lupin I'm not too familiar with--a few episodes here and there, and it's true they're much more risque (which I do miss, but they're also a lot less subtle, which I don't).

No, haven't heard your commentary; I'll check it out...

Might add a proviso, as Andrew O. pointed out, that 'alternate ending' is mentioned only in imdb.com--and we know how accurate that database is...